The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Devil in the Dark

When the mining colony on Janus VI starts losing men to the predations of a mysterious creature, the Enterprise is summoned to help. As Kirk and Spock set out to hunt down the beast, it turns out that there is more to the attacks than meets the eye – this is no mindless monster, but an intelligent being.

We’re back to Star Trek at its best in this episode, in which an alien monster of the week turns out to be much more – specifically, a silicon-based life form who just happens to be a mother protecting her eggs from the thoughtless actions of miners who didn’t even realise they had stumbled on a hatchery. It’s a great combination that showcases Star Trek’s position as an intelligent sci-fi show, rather than merely one where monsters get destroyed because they dared to the threaten humanity.

Characters

Once again, we have a predominantly Kirk and Spock-based episode. At first, Spock is reluctant to kill what is likely to be the last member of its species, whilst Kirk is more concerned about preventing the deaths of additional miners and red shirts. Later, however, when Kirk’s life is possibly in danger, Spock is the one pushing to kill the creature, whilst Kirk sees firsthand that it is not aggressive, and urges caution. In fact, for a pacifist, Spock takes quite an aggressive stance in this episode, but perhaps he was just thinking that, logically, the death of one creature would be better than the loss of an entire mining colony and the precious resources it provides to other planets.

Life in the 23rd century

  • Pergium is a substance used in life support machines and other bits of future technology.
  • This is Spock’s second proper use of the mind meld (his mind control in A Taste of Armageddon doesn’t exactly count).
  • The Horta are a race of silicon-based lifeforms indigenous to Janus VI. Every 50,000 years, all but one member of a generation dies, leaving the last survivor to care for their eggs (based on the numbers, she is not the sole biological mother of these eggs) until they hatch, and then raise the new generation of children. Horta are naturally peaceful and not inclined to aggression, but they will attack in the face of extreme provocation.

Most illogical, Captain

  • Spock quotes odds against both he and Kirk dying which hardly seem plausible or based on anything in particular. We all know that Vulcans cannot lie, but I wouldn’t put it past Spock to just pick some random number that would make Kirk relent and let him join the creature hunt.
  • If the pump is so important to the proper functioning of the colony’s reactor, why is there no spare? Is this a shoddy cost-cutting exercise that could ultimately cost lives?

Summary – The Devil in the Dark: “By golly, Jim, I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!”

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